Monday, March 06, 2023

From Ian:

Evelyn Gordon: Israel's Judicial Reckoning
The final element of the judicial revolution was unique in that it enhanced the power not of the courts but of the government’s own lawyers—the attorney general and other government legal advisers. As the names themselves imply in both English and Hebrew—the Hebrew term for attorney general is “the government’s legal adviser”—attorneys general and other legal advisers were originally, well, attorneys and advisers. Their job was to advise the government as a whole and individual ministries on how to carry out policies within the confines of the law, which obviously includes telling them when a given policy would violate the law. But since there is often more than one way to interpret the law, no one during the state’s early decades would have dreamed of saying a legal adviser’s opinion must be taken as the final word. It was just advice, and a minister who disagreed with his adviser’s interpretation could enact his policy and let it be tested in court.

This began changing in 1968, when Attorney General Meir Shamgar, in a novel interpretation of his own position, asserted that his role was not advisory but “of a judicial nature.” (For a fuller explanation of his decision and the evolution of the attorney general’s role, see here.) In other words, he was no longer the government’s attorney, but a judge determining the legality of its decisions. Yet only in 1993 did this power become absolute, when Shamgar and Barak, then the Supreme Court’s president and deputy president, respectively, ruled that an attorney general’s decision is binding on the government. This turned the government into the only entity in Israel deprived of the basic right to go to court; challenging an attorney general’s decision in court would be pointless, because the court, having declared the attorney general’s authority binding, would automatically uphold it.

In 1968, Attorney General Meir Shamgar, in a novel interpretation of his own position, asserted that his role was not advisory but “of a judicial nature.” In other words, he was no longer the government’s attorney, but a judge determining the legality of its decisions. Moreover, any government that did try to do so would be deprived of the basic right of legal representation, since, under the court’s ruling, an attorney general could not only refuse to represent the government’s position but could even bar it from hiring an outside lawyer to do so. As if this weren’t absurd enough, the government also has limited ability to hire or fire the attorney general. Attorneys general serve fixed six-year terms (a government’s term is four years or less), and candidates require approval from a five-member committee dominated by the legal establishment (three members are chosen, respectively, by the Supreme Court president, the Bar Association and the deans of the country’s law schools; the cabinet and Knesset choose the other two). Both the government and committee members can submit nominees, but the committee can force the government to choose one of the committee members’ nominees by vetoing all the government’s candidates—something that has in fact happened.

Of course, since ministry legal advisers are career civil servants who answer to the attorney general’s office rather than their ministers, this change in the attorney general’s status affected them, too. If the attorney general’s decisions bind the government, then by implication, ministry legal advisers have the same binding authority over their ministries, because they are the attorney general’s representatives in those ministries. And since they are civil servants who are not chosen by the minister, legal advisers and ministers often have with very different worldviews, leading the adviser to nix policies that other legal experts with different perspectives might well uphold. This puts the government in a stranglehold that seems absurd when looked at from the outside.

Because the judicial revolution gave the court such broad powers over government policy, it also made one previously uncontroversial institution, the Judicial Appointments Committee, highly controversial. The committee has nine members—the justice minister and another minister chosen by the cabinet; two Knesset members chosen by the Knesset, usually but not always one coalition and one opposition MK; two lawyers chosen by the Israel Bar Association; and three sitting Supreme Court justices chosen by the Supreme Court president. A simple majority of the panel can appoint an ordinary judge, while seven are needed to appoint a Supreme Court justice; this means that both the sitting justices and the governing coalition have veto power.

In practice, however, the justices command an absolute majority, because the Bar representatives almost always side with them. Israel’s court system has only three levels—magistrate’s, district and supreme—and a mandatory right of appeal. Consequently, any case that begins in the district courts ends up in the Supreme Court, meaning any lawyer of sufficient stature to be on the appointments committee regularly appears before the Supreme Court and would therefore be reluctant to antagonize the justices. Thus far from being “balanced,” the committee is heavily tilted toward one side—whichever side the justices favor, in this case the liberal one. When a liberal government is in power, it can team up with the justices and lawyers to appoint liberal justices. But when a conservative government is in power, the justices generally veto conservative candidates, so except in rare cases, it can at best appoint moderates.

When the court routinely rules on major ideological and policy controversies, this system is problematic for several reasons.

Virtually no other democracy lets sitting justices be involved in choosing their own successors, much less have veto power over the choice, and for good reason. Giving sitting justices’ veto power quickly creates a court with almost no ideological diversity, because justices, like all human beings, will naturally prefer people who share their worldview to people whose views appall them—and in Israel’s case, this has meant an activist liberal worldview. If you’re a liberal, imagine a situation in which the current U.S. Supreme Court majority could ensure the appointment of likeminded justices in perpetuity by vetoing any liberal candidate any Democratic president proposed. How long would it take before all liberals distrusted and despised the court? If you’re a conservative, try the same experiment with an ultraliberal court in mind. Either way, you wind up with a court that half the country—and it doesn’t matter which half—distrusts and despises, which is exactly what you have in Israel today.

Direct Polls: 78% of Israelis Support Judicial Reform
Only 4 weeks remain until the end of the Knesset’s winter session, which is also the deadline for the passing of the first two amendments of Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform: changing the composition of the committee to elect judges, and preventing the High Court from revoking constitutional laws.

And while the mainstream media outlets in Israel have been bombarding their audiences with reports on a massive, nationwide resistance to both bills, a Direct Polls survey published Monday morning offers an entirely different picture.

Direct Polls pointed out that the mainstream media do not feature surveys that ask direct questions about the different components of the reform.

They don’t ask, “Are you in favor of changing the composition of the committee for selecting judges?” or “Are you for or against the involvement of the High Court in invalidating laws and by what majority?” or “Are you for or against limiting the tenure of the president of the Supreme Court?” These are all issues that the reform authors plan to touch on sooner or later, so why don’t the mainstream pollsters ask the public about them?

According to Direct Polls, it’s because the answers to these questions would show a clear support of more than 60% for the vast majority of the proposed changes.

However, this most recent poll also shows some movement in the opposition camp: 1. Benny Gantz’s National Camp party gains three mandates, one from Likud, and two from Yesh Atid, which is getting weaker, contrary to some mainstream polls; and, 2. Benny Gantz’s rise as the best fit to serve as a prime minister among center-left voters. For the first time in a year and a half, Gantz is tied with Yair Lapid for the job, as Lapid loses more than 10% who switched to Gantz.

Why is Gantz rising, and why at the expense of Lapid?

Supporting Judicial Reform
Direct Polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of the public thinks that the justice system needs reform.

♦ 40%, mainly from the right, support the reform in its current form.
♦ An additional 4% would support it without the override clause.
♦ And 34% are “in favor of the reform, but only with agreements and changes that will lead to wider support in the Knesset.”

That’s a total of 78% support for changes in the judicial system, against only 22% who oppose any change and insist on leaving the system as it is.

Among the group that supports the reform “only with agreements and changes that will bring broad support,” 62% are National Camp voters, meaning at least 7 mandates that would join in supporting the reform in addition to the 64 mandates the coalition already counts on.
How Taxpayer Funds Are Flowing to a Group Bankrolling Anti-Netanyahu Protests
The U.S. government has been funneling taxpayer money to the left-wing group bankrolling protests against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Israeli funding documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The documents indicate that, since 2020, Foggy Bottom has sent over $38,000 to the Movement for Quality Government (MQG), the Israeli nonprofit stoking nationwide anti-Netanyahu protests that have seen protesters clash with police and target Netanyahu’s family members. MQG is seeking to takedown Netanyahu’s government over his support for major reforms to the Israeli supreme court that would significantly limit its power. The organization petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court earlier this year to oust Netanyahu, claiming he is unfit for office due to ongoing investigations into allegations of political corruption and bribery.

The State Department, which confirmed the funding, calls the group a nonpartisan organization, but its work opposing Netanyahu raises questions about how the group was able to obtain U.S. funding. The United States typically avoids funding foreign partisan groups to avoid claims of political meddling. Even before MQG emerged as the leading force behind the current wave of anti-Netanyahu protests, it made a name for itself as a leading critic of the Israeli right, which has long seen Netanyahu as its leader. Given the Biden administration’s chilly diplomatic relationship with Netanyahu—which includes repeated criticism of Israeli settlement construction and the decision to launch an unprecedented FBI probe into Israel’s anti-terrorism operations—the U.S. funding to MQG has come under new scrutiny.

"The State Department should never fund foreign partisan organizations in allied democracies," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon. "If the shoe was on the other foot, the Biden administration would accuse Israel of interfering in our elections. Congress should absolutely review the State Department’s potential funding of partisan politics in Israel."

The Real Reason for the Left’s White-Hot Fury
Why is the Left apoplectic?

What is the cause of the left’s almost bestial rancor? The mob claims they are protecting democracy, but this has a distinctly hollow ring. After all, they are a minority that just lost an election and are attempting to impose their views on the majority that won that election. This is not only inconsistent with democracy but its diametric opposite.

Moreover, their professed concern for the fate of the nation cannot be reconciled with their threats to undermine Israel’s economy and security by divesting from Israel or refusing military service. After all, making Israel more vulnerable only endangers what they allegedly cherish.

Significantly, the left expressed no concern about democracy when the Rabin government, under the Oslo Accords, allowed armed militias connected to terror organizations to deploy within mortar range of the nation’s parliament and government ministries. This ultimately resulted in thousands of Israelis being murdered or maimed.

Nor did the left object in 2005 when, contrary to election pledges, the Sharon government abandoned the Gaza Strip, laid waste to flourishing settlements, expelled thousands of industrious taxpaying citizens and disinterred Jewish graves of infants and the elderly alike. This allowed Hamas to transform Gaza from a security nuisance to a security nightmare.

“Therein lies the rub…”

How, then, are we to account for the left’s incandescent opposition to measures that even those who now oppose them once embraced? After all, the alleged “excess power” that the judicial reforms allegedly give the executive would benefit the opposition if it were to win a future election. They would then be able to correct any “abuses” made by their predecessors. The reforms are, after all, “sector neutral.” They are not designed to favor or disadvantage any partisan group, left or right.

Accordingly, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, therein lies the rub…

Because there is little to no chance that the current opposition will ever regain power. Certainly, they cannot do so without coopting the Arab-led anti-Zionist parties. Until the judicial reforms were proposed, however, the left did not need to win elections. The left-leaning judiciary had the power to implement its ideology. But if this tyrannical overreach is curtailed, the last vestige of the left’s power will be eroded—a prospect the left views with a mixture of horror and disbelief.

That is the real source of their white-hot fury against the reform initiative.

Agreement on Judicial Reform ‘Closer Than Ever,’ Says Israeli President Herzog
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on Monday gathered about 100 mayors and local councils at the President’s House to promote an outline for negotiations regarding the judicial reform.

“We are closer than ever to the possibility of an agreed outline. There are agreements behind the scenes on most things. Now it depends on our national leadership, the coalition, and the opposition, who will manage to rise to the magnitude of the moment, who will understand the terrible alternative that is hidden in the situation beyond the door, and who will put the country and the citizens above everything else,” Herzog told the local officials.

He noted that the outline he was working to formulate “gives answers to both sides.”

“It includes diversity of the judiciary and extensive reflection of the defenders of opinions and communities,” Herzog continued. “It lays down important and historical constitutional foundations, it anchors a healthy structure of balance between the authorities, it protects democracy and human rights at all costs, and on the independence of the judicial system. It protects the minorities and protects the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

The president also shared his concerns over the deepening crisis in Israeli society caused by the division over the proposed reforms. He noted that local authorities are the ones who face the consequences of this division as there is a “dramatic increase in inquiries in the field of mental health” due to people being worried about the ongoing crisis.

“We are in a historic crisis that threatens to destroy us from within. We are in one of the most difficult moments that the State of Israel has experienced. It seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? No missiles, no alarms, no red alert. But we all know deep down that this is a supreme national danger,” he underlined.

Herzog called on the local authorities, who according to the president, have “enormous power” to “demand with every tool you have” to reach a settlement that would calm the tensions.
Barbara Kay: With rising antisemitism even liberal Jews are arming themselves
Founded in 2014, during violence between Israel and Hamas, Legion is a New York-based global self-defence training network that “helps Jews and their friends train in self-defence, counter-terrorism technique and first aid.”

Journalist Suzy Weiss described its mission as “to untremble Jews’ knees” by teaching them how to fight back in everyday situations of humiliation and harassment. Weiss reports that Legion has been “slammed with inquiries from all over, including from Canada.” (There are two franchises in Ontario: Toronto and Thornhill, specializing in Krav Maga, a martial art developed for the Israeli military.)

In New York, “Rabbi sensei” Gary Moskowitz, a former police officer and president of the American Jewish Security Council, who holds a black belt in both jujitsu and karate, has been teaching counter-terrorism strategies and martial arts for decades.

Hasidic Jews began signing up after the 2019 New Jersey attack on a kosher supermarket that killed four people, including a police officer. “The situation in Jersey City changed everything. In a few lessons and with practice, this is the quickest way for Jewish people to have a chance to mitigate terror and murder,” Moskowitz told the New York Post, adding that, “At least they’ll have a fighting chance.”

Novelist and journalist Hesh Kestin is a bullish New Jew. He writes of a seminal childhood experience in his rough Brooklyn neighbourhood: “They had numbers on their side, chains and knives in their pockets and had grown up in a culture of violence. I had a well-used library card and the fear I would mess up my bar mitzvah Torah reading.”

Kestin later spent 18 years in the Israel Defence Forces reserves, serving in war as a battle medic. Returning to America in 1990, he was put off by the “lack of agency” he perceived in Diaspora Jews.

In 2021, Kestin published his book, “The Wrong Jew.” The “right Jews,” he explains, were the ones the Nazis targeted for destruction. The wrong Jews were the ones the Arabs targeted for destruction. Kestin exhorts Jews to reject “Jewish Nice,” which is characterized by a dependence on others for protection and holding signs at rallies that say, “We Stand Together.”

Obviously, neither Kestin nor any other advocate for Jews taking up martial arts or gun training harbours any motivation but self-defence. Certainly not, God forbid, revenge.

Antisemitism is rising in Canada, too. Fortunately, we haven’t experienced anything so horrific as, for example, the 2018 Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue massacre. Would it be so terrible to be a little less “right” and a little more “wrong” just in case?
Zionists didn’t wait for the Messiah - opinion
It surprises many to learn that Theodor Herzl, largely considered the father of modern Zionism, wasn’t the first activist to encourage the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel. There were even Jews who preceded Dr. Herzl that had started spreading the message that it was time to create a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

Before Herzl, there was Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai who worked alongside Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher to promote Zionism, even publishing about the need for the Jews to return to Zion. Herzl, whose grandfather was friends with Alkalai, was influenced by Alkalai’s writings. Even before Alkalai and Kalisher, there were the Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon; two rabbis who sent their students to settle in the Land of Israel.

Even before them, there was a famous religious community in Safed. While most of the leaders of the modern political Zionist movement weren’t religious, the Zionists that kept the Zionist ideology alive over the two-thousand-year Jewish exile were almost exclusively religious Jews.

Zionism was a revolutionary national liberation movement. Like many liberation movements, Zionism drew its inspiration from religious ideals. Unfortunately, many of these movements slowly gave up their religious idealism and turned purely secular. As purely secular movements they lost much of the meaning that drew the early adherents to the movement.

Zionism was inspired by the Jewish liberation movements of the exodus from Egypt and the Jews’ return to Israel from Babylonia. As Zionism evolved from a movement to a State government, it was unique in that it never gave up its religious inspiration.

There is a movement that tries to sever the religious roots in both idealism and people from Zionism’s start and success.

The link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel throughout the two-thousand-year exile was sustained by Jews praying three times a day to return to Zion. These same Jews, whether they were in Tunisia, Shanghai, or America, faced Jerusalem when they prayed. At the end of these Jews’ Yom Kippur services and Passover Seder, they declared, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
After 80 years: Why we commemorate the Rosenstrasse protest - opinion
In 1793, German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that, “The saying, ‘We must hearken to God, rather than to man,’” signifies no more than this, namely, that should any earthly legislation enjoin something immediately contradictory of the moral law, obedience is not to be rendered. The women Rosenstrasse protesters, in their refusal to divorce and abandon their Jewish husbands during the whole of the Nazi period, fulfilled that important moral principle.

Eighty years ago, hundreds of non-Jewish women married to nearly 2,000 Jewish men risked their lives protesting in front of a makeshift Gestapo prison on Berlin’s Rosenstrasse, soon to be sent to Auschwitz labor camps, never to be seen at home again. Undaunted by terrifying threats of “clear the streets or be shot,” they continue to call out, “We want our husbands back.”

The women kept coming and going, protesting and keeping watch continuously for a week until they convinced Hitler to release the men. But this was only by putting their own lives on the line.

Rosenstrasse protest: Emblematic of women's resistance to the Nazis
The Gestapo’s practice was to deport intermarried Jews when their partners divorced. But many Jewish persons within Germany – about 11,000 – survived openly and received official rations because their “Aryan” wives chose them over loyalty to an all-powerful regime, and in the face of severe discrimination and abuse. A further number survived in hiding, sheltered by extraordinarily brave German rescuers.

The Rosenstrasse protest was emblematic of these women’s resistance which began when Hitler took power in 1933, taking a direct form of noncompliance. Barred from halls of power, these women were among the pioneers of women’s protest against tyrannical rulers that has now exploded across the globe. In their unrelenting protest against a ferociously repressive dictatorship, they acted as heroes. But heroes like these are usually few and far between.

They showed how ordinary persons can come to act heroically by building up their capacity for defiance and risk, day by day. As Hitler took power in 1933, Nazis confidently reckoned that intermarried non-Jews – termed Aryans – married to Jews, would divorce, but that proved not to be the case. And indeed, these non-Jewish women soon paid a terrifying price for their loyalty to family.

BRAVING TAUNTS as friends fled, and ostracized by their own families, their partners, and in some cases losing hard-to-replace jobs, their children were also tossed from schools. Choosing to entwine their fate openly, every day with Jewish family members, they lived in constant uncertainty about their own lives during the Holocaust years.

In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws condemned sexual relations between Jews and Aryans as racial treason (Rassenschande). In the eyes of the regime and the Nazi Party, the vilest form of this treason occurred in ‘Jewish households’ where Jewish men lecherously despoiled gentile women.
Nazis to the left of me; Muslims to the right of me: here I am, stuck in the middle, again
On February 20, 1939, the German American Bund held an “Americanization” rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden, denouncing conspiracies, President Roosevelt, and others. Banners at the rally had messages like “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans” and “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism. We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it…If you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter: First, a socially just, white, Gentile-ruled United States. Second, Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish Moscow-directed domination.”

Not to be outdone, in 2022, February 25, 2023, almost 80 years after the Holocaust, and the German American Bund party, the Goyim Defense League (Goyim is the Jewish word for non-Jews) called for a National Day of Hate against the Jews. Thankfully, it didn’t pan out – but not for lack of trying. Can you imagine a day of hate against Black people? Gay people, Muslims? No? Neither can I.

More on that later.

Nazis to the left of me; Muslims to the right of me: here I am, the Jew, stuck in the middle, again.

Did you know the Nazis and Muslims had a mutual admiration society? The Nazis admired the Muslims. And the feeling was mutual.

During WWII, Muslims in the Middle East called out:
“In Heaven, Allah is your ruler. On Earth, it is Adolf Hitler.”

By the time hitler (I refuse to grant him a capital h) began spreading his own antisemitism, the Muslims had already subjected the Jews under their rule to more than a thousand years of dhimmitude. The Arab Higher Committee, broadcast nightly incendiary hate messages beginning with words “Oh Muslims,” and told to undertake all things calculated to advance a German victory, which promised an Arab state in Palestine and a disappeared Jewish population.

An Arab state on Jewish land built around the Holy Temple.

The Temple in Jerusalem, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE,with its forty-five foot coffered ceiling had reached up into the blue velvet sky over the sacred city of Jerusalem. It was an extraordinary piece of architecture, an elegant and awesome home, to hold the place of glory for the Lord. It had taken King Solomon, son of David, seven years to complete on Mount Moriah, the place of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, where Abraham had brought his only son to sacrifice to God.

In the last months of the war while hitler hid in his bunker he lamented that the Third Reich’s efforts to mobilize the Muslim world had not been strong enough. “All Islam vibrated at the news of our victories,” and Muslims had been “ready to rise in revolt.”

But hitler need not have feared. Haj Amin al-Husseini worked to unite the Arabs with the Nazis, economically and ideologically, in an anti-Jewish Islamic movement across India to Central Europe and on to the Middle East.
The Year We Hung Hitler
Purim wasn’t simple after the war, and it was even less simple during it. In his book on the diaries from the ghettos and camps, David Patterson comments on the complex place that Purim occupied in the war years:
The diarist was faced with a staggering disjuncture between the festive occasion and the days of destruction. While the disjuncture lay in the fact that in this instance, it seemed, the Jews would not be delivered from destruction, very often it was handled by suggesting a similarity between Haman and Hitler.

He includes this touching comment from Yitskhok Rudashevski, a young Jewish teenager who lived in the Vilna Ghetto, who wrote from the ghetto that:
We were in the mood for Purim, so let it be Purim. We were the ones who set the tone. We sang songs, presented a “Purim play” ... We laughed our fill and went to sleep. We are waiting for the real Purim. Next year we shall eat Hitler-tashn.

Rudashevski was killed in 1943. Patterson also includes this moving entry from the Kovno Ghetto:
Today is Purim. Hitler has promised that there will be no more Purim festivities for the Jews. I do not know whether his other predictions will come true, but this one is yet to be fulfilled ... none other than our little children, our Mosheles and Shlomeles, give the lie to Hitler’s prediction by celebrating Purim with all their innocence and enthusiasm …

And we cannot forget the chilling sermon of the rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, R. Kalonymos Kalmish Shapiro, known as the Aish Kodesh, who taught on Purim in the ghetto during the war years that just as Yom Kippur “purifies by its very essence,” without any necessary teshuva or proper headspace, so too we must accept that the “very essence of Purim causes joy,” no matter our circumstance. We cannot appreciate what context birthed this thought for this Hasidic teacher.

Celebrating Purim in the Landsberg DP camp. The tombstone reads, ‘Here is buried the oppressors of the Jews, Haman ben Hamdata, Adolf Hitler … among the insects and hell shall they find rest, may their names be erased.’

This makes the celebration of Purim after the war all the more intriguing. On Purim in 1946, Hitler was hanged—again and again and again. Hitler was hanged in Buchenwald, and likely other camps, but he was also hanged with particular zeal in the one DP camp: Landsberg. In 1946, the Landsberger Lager-Cajtung reported that “Hitler hangs in many variants and in many poses: a big Hitler, a fat Hitler, a small ‘Hitler,’ with medals, and without medals. Jews hung him by his head, by his feet, or by his belly.”

In Landsberg we are left with a particularly remarkable set of images for what this Purim looked like. Consider the stunning picture of four good-natured men presiding over the grave of Hitler. The tombstone reads: Here is buried the oppressors of the Jews, Haman ben Hamdata, Adolf Hitler … among the insects and hell shall they find rest, may their names be erased.”
More than 200 protesters rally outside Chuck Schumer’s NYC home over Israel
More than 200 protesters demonstrated in front of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn home Sunday as they called on the US to cut off all military funding to Israel.

Last month, the Democrat, who lives in Park Slope, vowed to give Israel his “fullest support” while visiting the country with a delegation of other Senate Dems and meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Jewish Insider.

Days after Schumer’s remarks and trip, Israeli settlers tore through the West Bank after a Palestinian gunman fatally shot two Israeli brothers driving in the occupied West Bank.

The Israelis’ revenge left a Palestinian man dead and four others badly injured, while houses, businesses, and cars were torched, officials said.

The group Jewish Voice for Peace, which organized the Brooklyn protest, referenced Schumer’s vocal support last month for Israel and the mob violence by Israeli settlers in its press release regarding the rally to stop aid to Israel.

Sunday afternoon’s protest began at Grand Army Plaza before scores of people marched to the home of the top Senate Democrat, who did not appear to be home.

Protesters stayed for about 15 minutes before leaving.

“Why are we here? We’re here because one day after the Israeli military massacred Palestinians in Nablus, the Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer went to give Netanyahu a hug and pledge that the US Senate will always fully support the Israeli government,” said Beth Miller, JVP’s government affairs manager, outside Schumer’s home.
Elly Schlein’s Etruscan Nose
“Then the Lord God said to Moses/All the Jews shall have long noses.”

This spiteful playground barb has been leveled at Jews in one form or another for centuries. While antisemitism typically involves defamatory claims about Jewish behavior—dual loyalty, financial domination and similar themes—the hatred has also extended to the supposed Jewish physiognomy, with its attendant stereotypes of enormous, hooked noses, high-pitched, excitable voices and stunted, corpulent bodies.

Many of the caricatures of Jews distributed by the Nazis accentuated these supposed features. Like the other tropes about Jewish financial and political power, those that trade on Jewish physical ugliness have persisted throughout the postwar era. They are dangerous for the same reason that other expressions of antisemitism are dangerous, in that they transmit not just a message of sinister Jewish otherness but the notion that Jews are somehow less than human. And for the Nazis, of course, the claim that Jews were subhuman, untermenschen, was the key to their ideology.

Yet in keeping with the trajectory of postwar antisemitism, assertions about Jews that many hoped had been junked with the defeat of the Nazis have persisted, turning up in the most unexpected places.

Like a press conference given in early February by a woman who, last week, was elected to lead the Democratic Party (PD), Italy’s main center-left opposition.

Elly Schlein is a 37-year-old US-Italian dual national whose mother is Italian and whose father is an American Jew. In 2008 and 2012, Schlein worked as a volunteer in Chicago for former President Barack Obama’s election campaigns. In 2013, she moved to Italy, joining forces with a far-left insurgent group that sought to unseat the party’s centrist leadership. Last Sunday, they succeeded, when Schlein unexpectedly defeated her establishment rival Stefano Bonaccini with 54% of the vote.

Given that Italy is governed by an ultranationalist party, the Brothers of Italy (FdI), it is reasonable to assume that a country whose recent history neatly illustrates the perils of polarization is fated to continue along this path with Schlein’s election. The most obvious parallel for the PD is the five years that the British Labour Party spent under its far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected in 2015 and whose term came to an ignominious end with Labour’s overwhelming defeat in the 2020 general election.

What marked out the Corbyn period were the serial accusations of antisemitism in Labour’s ranks on a near-daily basis. Whether Schlein will force a similar set of obsessions upon the PD is still an open question, but the portents are worrying.
Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism Noa Tishby Speaks at Duke University
Noa Tishby, Israel’s inaugural special envoy for combating antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel, is not known for holding punches. Her talk on Feb. 21 at Duke University in Durham, N.C., was no exception.

When moderator David Schanzer, a public-policy professor at Duke, called Tishby’s 2021 book, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth a “wonderful read,” Tishby had another view. Her volume is “a history book with some F-bombs in it,” she said.

At another point in the talk, Tishby—an actress whose credits include “Star Trek: Enterprise,” “Charmed” and “NCIS”—told the nearly 200 assembled students: “If you try to tell me that Israel does not have the right to exist, if you try to slander what Zionism is—excuse me, you’re wrong. You’re an idiot.”

The event was co-sponsored by Duke’s Center for Jewish Studies and Freeman Center for Jewish Life, the Israel on Campus Coalition, Students Supporting Israel and Chabad at Duke. One of the organizers, Duke sophomore and public-policy major Alex Ahdoot, described Tishby as “an absolute superstar.”

To see how normalized anti-Israel sentiments have become, Tishby told those assembled that one need only look to Wikipedia. Israel is the only country to have a page questioning its legitimacy. Not even North Korea has that, she said.

In conversation with activists on campus, who support the BDS movement, Tishby advised students to ask which other countries they want to dismantle. “It’s just one country, and that country just happens to be Jewish,” she said.

An unhelpful BBC backgrounder on ‘Israeli-Palestinian violence’
On February 28th the BBC News website published a backgrounder by its Middle East editor Raffi Berg titled ‘Why is Israel-Palestinian violence surging?’ which opens as follows:
“There has been an intensification of violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the start of this year, with deaths mounting on both sides. Here is a brief guide to what is going on.”

Given that, as we have had cause to note on numerous occasions, the BBC has to date generally avoided providing its audiences with information concerning the backdrop to the rise in Palestinian terrorism, the appearance of this backgrounder is worthy of note. But does it do the job?

Under the sub-heading ‘What is happening?’ readers find the usual BBC portrayal of relevant history as having begun in June 1967, with no mention of the Jordanian invasion and illegal occupation of the areas concerned 19 years previously and no information given regarding their status as part of the land allocated by the League of Nations for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.

“The current violence is mainly taking place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war. While the starting point is debatable, it began to escalate in March 2022. In a period of days, Israel was rocked by a series of deadly Palestinian attacks and the Israeli military launched an open-ended operation in the West Bank in response, resulting in near nightly raids into the occupied territories.”

In contrast to Berg’s portrayal of “the starting point” as March 2022, some experts and analysts point to an earlier date. Jonathan Schanzer and Joe Truzman for example are of the opinion that the starting point came in May 2021 and they explain why:
“By the end of 2021, however, armed clashes between Israeli forces and gunmen had become routine. So it behoves us to look for the turning point. We find it in May 2021 during an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas. Israeli security officials now say that Hamas made a strategic decision after that clash to abandon battles in Gaza because it is a territory the terrorist group already controls. Rather, it elected to export unrest and chaos to the West Bank, with assistance from Iran and some of its proxy groups, with the goal of taking it over. Stoking violence there has the benefit of threatening Israel and destabilizing the rival Palestinian Authority.”

However the word Hamas does not appear even once in Berg’s backgrounder. Readers hence learn nothing about the smuggling of weapons into areas ostensibly under Palestinian Authority control or about Hamas’ practical and financial roles in the establishment, arming and direction of new and existing terror groups.

Purging the Jews of “Babylon”
The Academy Awards is soon upon us. One film that will not be walking away with a large Oscar haul is Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon.” (It is nominated for three awards, none in major categories.) That came as a surprise, given the box office and critical success of his last film, “La La Land,” the size of “Babylon’s” budget, and the attractiveness and appeal of its cast, which included Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.

The film is a valentine to the early days of Hollywood, circa 1928, right before the Golden Age of movies, when silent films won over the general public and talking pictures would become America’s most dominant cultural export. Movies, in fact, projected what America represented to most people around the world.

Shouldn’t a movie about the wonder of moving pictures, and the pioneers who built Hollywood, be a box office draw? It is a sweeping film, lush in its cinematic landscape—deserts, hills, movie sets and mansions—daring if not wholly debauched in its sexuality, and frenzied given that nearly all the characters are inebriated, or drug and gambling addicted.

It also has a bloated running time. Chazelle’s green light from the studio was more like a yahrzeit.

Perhaps its ambitions in scope were undermined by its misadventures in woke. Actually, there’s an object lesson in “Babylon” worth pondering.

Not unlike the recent opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, which somehow neglected to mention that five of the original seven studio heads were Jewish immigrants, “Babylon” went out of its way to foster inclusion for every category of identity except for the one responsible for moving the nascent industry to Los Angeles, erecting studios, sound stages and an entire city to support it—in what had been a barren wasteland.

The Jews of Israel and those from Hollywood both made deserts bloom.
Actor Stephen Fry Shares True Story of Dutch Artist, Cellist Who Forged Identity Cards for Thousands of Jews During WWII
As part of a documentary that aired last week on Britain’s Channel 4, Jewish British actor and comedian Stephen Fry traveled to Amsterdam to share the little-known true story of two members of the Dutch Resistance who forged identity cards that saved thousands of Jews in The Netherlands from being deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Willem Arondeus, a painter, and Frieda Belinfante, a conductor and cellist, created the fake identity cards. Arondeous, together with a group of other artists, also led a raid to bomb the Central Records Office, where Nazis stored some duplicates of cards they issued, and Belinfante found a way to raise money needed for the paper used to create the forgeries.

Wealthy businessman Henry Heineken, who started the Heineken brewery, was on the board of the Dutch orchestra Concertgebouw, which Belinfante had played for. He wanted to help her but huge bank withdrawals would have been suspicious to the Nazis, who seized control of the Heineken brewery’s profits. Belinfante instead concocted the idea of having Heineken buy her cello and pay a large sum, which would then be used for the identity cards.

Fry said the war gave Arondeus and Belinfant a chance to stand united against Nazi injustice.

“It was a mixture of being able to fight for what they believed in, for the freedom of the oppressed and the Jews in particular, but also a way to belong, as they were both gay,” Fry explained. “Willem had been thrown out by his family when he came out aged 17, and he left his lover because he didn’t want to involve him in the danger that he was embarking on, so he got himself a family, and gay people have always looked for a family.”

Fry added that he had never heard of Arondeus and Belinfante and neither had many Dutch people. He said, “We think of The Netherlands as this wonderfully tolerant, accepting country with all kinds of progressive ideas, but you could say that Willem and Frieda weren’t celebrated until recently because they were gay.”
Secular and Religious Israelis Both Account for the Country’s Demographic Miracle
At 2.9, the Jewish state’s fertility rate is far greater than that of any other economically advanced country. While this is in part due to the high birthrates of religious Jews and Muslims, Israeli fecundity can only be explained by the fact that the secular and moderately religious also have more children on average than their counterparts elsewhere. Danielle Kubes, a Canadian journalist, seeks the reason why:

The real secret to Israel’s fertility rates appears to be cultural. The family is at the absolute center of Israeli life. Getting married and having kids is the highest cultural value. . . . And Israel puts its money where its pronatalist mouth is—it’s the only country fully to subsidize unlimited in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments for all women until they are 45 or have two children. The policy receives little criticism, despite the expense.

But most importantly, children are seen as a blessing instead of a burden. While I often hear my Canadian friends lament the cost of having children and the impact more humans will have on climate change, I have never heard an Israeli do the same.

Israelis simply lack the kind of nihilism seen amongst young Canadians today about the future. Despite the fact that they live in a land where they know they will have to send their children into the army at eighteen, they aren’t afraid to bring children into the world. Rather, they believe the only way to make a better world is to have children. To many Israelis, children represent life—and only life brings hope.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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